No More Worlds
Back in 1998 Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond achieved something almost unthinkable – a near onsight ascent of El Capitan. They were just 18, had no big wall experience and headed to Yosemite without any great ambitions for the big faces. They had intended to try to headpoint some bold, hard new lines, but quickly discovered that the sort of lines they were after didn’t exist in Yosemite. When they arrived there were just two free routes on the mai wall of the Captain. The Salathé Wall,...
On and Off - A headpointing story
Prompted by Franco Cookson’s article on headpointing recently I thought I’d dig out this interview I recorded in November 2017 with Tim Lowe. Tim is a climber from Yorkshire with an enviable ticklist of routes, including the Yorkshire Triple Crown of The Groove, Urgent Action and Supercool. Over the years he’s been a keen sport climber, but Tim also likes to stick his neck out on trad routes. Back in 1992 he took a huge fall on The Cad, on North Stack Wall at Gogarth. A little hungover and...
Clouds Come and Go
In the last two episodes we looked at aspects of flow, whether seeking the euphoria as an escape or chasing it as a performance tool. But there’s an area of climbing where flow won’t be enough. The objectives are too long, too complex and too unpredictable. At altitude everything becomes harder, your muscles ache under the lack of oxygen and, as Rick Allen has found more than once, your mind can wander. Rick is one of the world’s most accomplished high altitude mountaineers. He’s climbed...
Me and My Shadow
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk has already established herself as one of the best sport climbers in the country, with redpoints up to 8c. For the past few seasons she has been attempting Rainshadow, Steve McClure’s iconic 9a at Malham. It’s more than a step above her previous ascents, and initially something that it hadn’t even occurred to her to try. It seemed too unfeasible. When pushing the limit at some point you will find it. We often say this with risk taking, but the same is true when pushing...
More Than a Dream
The young Dave Thomas was motivated by one thing above all others – soloing. In his own words he’s “Never climbed a hard route”, but anyone looking at his climbing C.V. would beg to differ. In 1989 he soloed the classic E6 Lord of the Flies at Dinas Cromlech. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. He’d been putting the miles in on the Rubicon traverse in the weeks leading up to the day. In his mind he had set a date with destiny. He’d decided he wanted to do it, so he would. The logic here...
Sally Can Wait
There's something both romantic and illogical about taking the ultimate risk in climbing; leaving the rope behind and going solo. Justifying that is a question which has always fascinated me. For many people it's such an absolute risk that the answer is easy, but I've always thought it was more grey than that. I've asked all of the climbers I've interviewed for this series the same question, about why we do it and how we justify the risks we take. It turns out that we're all motivated by...
The Black Dog
Katy Forrester is a former member of the British bouldering and ice climbing teams. She's a fell runner and an accomplished trad and sport climber, with routes up to 7c+ and E8 under her belt. She also has a black dog. Katy is open in talking about her experience of depression and how she tackled her metaphorical black dog with a real one - a 5 month old labrador called Jade. In this episode Katy talks about her experience of dealing with depression. As a naturally competitive person she...
Alone - Off the Wall
In part one of this story we saw how Duncan Critchley's quick judgment of his partner for The Nose resulted in a piece of big wall history. Despite his good judgment, he was left with the regret that they never climbed together again. In part two Duncan's judgment isn't so good, but it leaves him with few regrets and some firm friendships. What do you do when you've just set the speed record on The Nose? For Duncan the answer was to set out alone. First with a free solo ascent of the...
Nine and a Half Hours
The Nose on El Capitan is perhaps the most iconic rock climb on the planet. Its been big news even outside of the climbing world since its first ascent by a team led by Warren Harding in 1958. The crowds in El Cap meadow became so unmanageable that the park rangers asked Harding to halt his work on the route until the autumn when the tourists had left. Today a major first ascent or speed record is news even in the mainstream media. Back in 1984 mild-mannered British climber "Sir" Duncan...
Becoming the Master
Every generation of climbers looks to improve on the performances of the last. The saga of the Great Wall on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu provides one of the best examples of this in British climbing.The climbers looked to improve the style and the difficulty of the lines: Joe Brown abandoned his efforts with a peg at his high point. Pete Crew surpassed it using pebbles for aid in the thin cracks of the top pitch. A young John Allen freed the line in 1974. In the early 80s the eyes of the best were...